Focus on Fostoria - May_4_03

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The Fostoria Focus - May 4, 2003

Focus Blockbuster Story Unravels Mystery of Foster Store - It's Still Around

By Leonard Skonecki

When last we left the riveting drama of the Foster Block, I'd thanked the drunks who saved the building in 1915.

Their inebriated shenanigans caused the police to be at Tiffin and Main in time to spot the fire and alert the fire department which rescued the 1882 structure.

"That's the end of that," I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

A woman called to tell me I was mistaken when I said the Maccabees (the club in whose rooms the fire started) was a women's organization. Untrue.

The Knights of the Maccabees was formed in 1878 in London, Ontario, Canada. It was an international fraternal organization that admitted both men and women in 1982. Ohio's state commander was a woman.

The Maccabees take their name from the Jewish leaders who ruled Judea from 170 to 138 BC. Around 165 BC, Judas Maccabaeus drove the Syrians from Judea. Judas commanded his soldiers to reserve a share of the fruits of their victories for widows, orphans and the disabled.

The Maccabees were founded on that principle. To that end the group even formed its own insurance company.

The Maccabees lasted for a long time in Fostoria. My caller informed me she was a junior member when she was a girl after World War II.

I also said that when the older Charles Foster built his brick store at Main and Tiffin Streets in 1856, he tore down the log cabin that had been both store and Foster home since 1832. Maybe, maybe not.

The accounts I read said it had been "torn down," but perhaps they should have said "taken down" because the original Foster Store may still be standing.

This tidbit comes courtesy of Jim and Pat Beeson who are probably living in it on West Fremont Street.

It seems when Foster took down the original log cabin store in 1865, he had it reassembled on High Street. It said perhaps 20 yards off the northeast corner of the original high school.

It was a lonely little structure since the school (Central High) wasn't built until 1877. In any case, Jim and Pat have a photograph which shows the rear of the school with a cabin nearby.

So how did Jim and Pat, in 2003, come to be living in Charles Foster's store which was built in 1832? Jim Beeson's great-grandmother, Fredericka Brookman, bought it in 1883.

Fredericka's husband, Joseph, was killed by a Lake Erie & Western train east of Arcadia in March 1883. Joseph was 38 years old and Fredericka was left alone to raise five children who were under 9.

In July 1883, Fredericka bought a log cabin from Charles W. Foster for $525. Jim and Pat have the deed of sale which is signed by Foster, his wife, Laura, and Fredericka.

The question is, how was Fredericka, whose husband died uninsured and who have five young children, able to pony up $525 to pay Foster?

One logical answer is that Foster and his son both performed many deeds of public and private charity and perhaps Foster, learning of the tragedy, financed the sale himself through his bank.

Jim and Pat said, "we'll have to accept that question as being unanswered."

The other question, naturally, is whether it's actually the relocated Foster Store.

Jim's grandmother, Ida Beeson once told the family, "I was only 3 years old when my mother, Fredericka Brookman, purchased a log cabin from Charles W. Foster and his wife, Laura. Mr. Foster had the cabin moved by pulling it with horses to West Fremont Street and sat it on four large rocks."

The rocks are still present. Jim has seen them while doing furnace work and other household repairs.

"The cabin was Charles Foster's fabric store and it sat in the middle of the land behind where the high school is on High Street," Ida said.

Jim said that his grandmother told them that before that the cabin was originally located on the southwest corner of Tiffin and Main Streets, the location of the Foster Store.

Living in a cabin might sound nostalgic, but it could be rough.

"My two brothers, two sisters and I climbed the ladder to the loft every night to sleep," Ida said. "During the winter months we would have to shake the snow off our covers before we could get out of bed."

Over the years, the family added to the house. An 1885 photograph shows a new room on the east side.

Bt 1900, it had a second story and the downstairs was divided into three rooms. In the 1950's an apartment was added on the back.

Jim and Pat bought the house in 1963 and added a front porch.

Is it really the original Foster Store? The evidence looks pretty plausible.

Besides, wouldn't Fredericka get a kick out of knowing that her family still lives in the same house she bought from Fostoria's namesake 120 years ago?